Since late spring, the on-again, off-again nature of dine-in restrictions has left many operators scrambling to adhere to local mandates and, when possible, revive on-site business. Al fresco dining is one means of welcoming guests back to the restaurant in a safe, socially distanced manner.
For concepts that lacked outdoor dining pre-pandemic, adding those spaces involves some quick modifications, like reinventing outdoor cocktail areas into full dining “rooms” and converting individual parking spaces into small seating arrangements, called parklets.
Regardless of the restaurant, the outdoors-only approach has been an adjustment for concepts of all sizes. And, while most restaurants now have open-air seating available, the challenges haven’t disappeared. Soon enough the temperatures will turn cooler and the days shorter, forcing many operators to rethink outdoor dining once again.
But for now, restaurants aren’t thinking that far ahead. Instead they are taking the outdoors approach one step at a time by working to create an experience that’s both social and safe. We spoke to three operators about how they’re achieving that balance.